Government calls for review of public service pay allowances

Department suggests Defence Forces commission reviews remuneration structures

The department has suggested looking at whether existing pay and remuneration structures for military personnel are “fragmentary, overly complex” or out of date and if there is “scope for consolidation, modernising and streamlining”. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

The department has suggested looking at whether existing pay and remuneration structures for military personnel are “fragmentary, overly complex” or out of date and if there is “scope for consolidation, modernising and streamlining”. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

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The Department of Public Expenditure has signalled that it would like to see further reviews of allowances paid to hundreds of thousands of staff across the public service on top of their basic pay to see if they are still appropriate and, if not, to see them ended or bought out.

In recent weeks, the department has suggested specifically that the current Commission on the Defence Forces could look at whether existing pay and remuneration structures for military personnel are “fragmentary, overly complex” or out of date and if there is “scope for consolidation, modernising and streamlining arrangements in a way that is cost-neutral or cost-saving to the exchequer”.

It also argued it believed all allowances paid across the public service should be regularly reviewed “to assess their continued validity and, where appropriate, discontinued with the assistance of agreed buyout formulae”.

In a late submission to the commission, sent in July, several months after the official deadline, the department said: “The implications of the development of a broad range of Defence Forces’ allowances should be examined with a view to determining their monetary value by grade and rank within the Defence Forces and in association with the respective salary scales applying at each grade and rank level.”

‘Purpose and necessity’

Specifically, it said the range of allowances payable to Defence Forces personnel should be examined “to determine their ongoing purpose and necessity” and that the role of “incremental salary scale progression and performance management at all Defence Forces’ ranks and level should be examined and evaluated”.

The department said the last comprehensive review of allowances paid in the public service in 2012 was carried out in 2012 but that there was some controversy following this review when targets for savings were not met.

“The bulk of allowances remained for serving personnel,” it noted.

The department told the commission that, following the 2012 review, 124 allowances were recommended for abolition for new entrants while 100 were approved for new beneficiaries with modifications. The submission states that allowances had been a long-standing feature of public pay.

“The provision of an allowance remains valid and appropriate, when it is paid having regard to the specific, identified business needs of the employer, including the need to ensure that specific posts will continue to be filled,” the submission says.

‘Buyout formula’

“Nevertheless, it is the case that, over time, the number of allowances has grown and, as a result, public pay structures are complex. New allowances were created in response to problems and issues and older allowances were seldom if ever reviewed or discontinued.”

The department says in the submission that its position is that “all allowances should be regularly reviewed to assess their continued validity and, where appropriate, discontinued with the assistance of agreed buyout formulae”.

When asked about the submission this weekend, the department said it would be inappropriate to comment while the commission’s work was ongoing. It did not reply to questions on whether it had proposed to the Government that an overall review of allowances be conducted.

Separately, the Health Service Executive, in a submission to the commission, called for greater links between military and civilian medicine. It suggested that the Army should have the capability to deploy a field hospital and that the existing helicopter emergency air service should become permanent as part of a joint Defence Forces/HSE operation.

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